Thursday, April 19, 2007

Byzantine and Christian Museum - pic of the day 2

Today's picture is from the Byzantine and Christian museum in Athens, from the section of the museum dealing with late antiquity when there were many changes being made to old temples to convert them to christian use. I am not sure if the specific capital is from the parthenon, the acropolis in general or what, but it is in that corner of the museum (good, this, ennit?)

What have we got here? well, it is a marble capital with what seem to be crowned lambs sticking out at the corners. Things to look out for are the deep drilled holes in the lower half of the capital, which are trying to go for the so called marble lace effect (as employed to good effect in the 6th century basilicas of Constantinople and Ravenna and also in Egypt of the same time).

This is one of the more florid and over-worked capitals I am familiar with, hence its notability and inclusion here. The lamb theme is very popular in both mosaic work and plastic work for a few centuries, appearing both in the old (Theodosian) hagia sofia friezes from the 5th century and in the mosaics at St. Apollonaris in Classe from the sixth century.

Do I need to go into the why the lamb is significant in early christian art? What about the problems over the depiction of christ in human form to the extent that this goes against the graven images commandment? Maybe some other time.

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